Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Things fall apart?

Very late last night, around 3 a.m., as I was preparing to take Becky to the airport for the first leg of her flight to South Dakota, I was able to watch a few minutes of Rumsfeld testimony and pay attention to how it was being reported. This

Washington Post story (substance aside, I like the way it is written) reflects the general mood: Rumsfeld is apologetic, and on the defense; he looks tired and haggard, maybe even aged (he is 71, by the way); he is no longer certain of himself. Finally, his detractors assert he begins to doubt himself. His time has come. He must resign. Some tried to argue--before 9/11--that he would be the first cabinet officer to wash out, then even his enemies admitted that he was brilliant in Afghanistan, then came Iraq and a few months after the brilliant campaign, he was fair game again. More problems in Iraq showed up than he may have expected or planned on, and he was once again the bad guy. The neo-con conspiracy stuff is not irrelevant in this; much internal DOD arguments becoming public; many personal animosities coming into play. And then the elite media was in a permanent attack mode. Then this Abu Ghraib fiasco. We have humiliated the Iraqis, it is said. Worse then torture. A good time to get rid of Rumsfeld, if not Bush. Now we are a shellsocked hegemon, says David Brooks. Everything we are attempting to do in Iraq and elsewhere is at stake. Maybe. Probably not. Rumsfeld most certainly should not go. If you think that you should support John Kerry for president, and then you’ll get a real Secretary of Defense, so you think.

As I have said, I don’t like what happened at this prison. Bad show, to humiliate the soldiers of Saddam Hussein. I agree. Yet, this wasn’t even a Mai Lai, never mind dropping a couple of nukes on Japan, or firebombing Dresden. So let’s not get carried away by all this. Political men have political enemies, and enemies try to take advantage of opportunities; they always push and shove, on all fronts, and sometimes the pushing penetrates. Yet, this Washington Post-ABC News poll find that 69% of Americans don’t want Rumsfeld to resign. I side with the common sense of the American people. We are in a war, and certain things follow. Get petty and silly and stupid some other time, will you? Why should I now start listening to the great moralist Senator Kennedy, as always full of passionate intensity, (or that moron from Minnesota, Mark Dayton)? I will not. Here is the transcript of the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing of yesterday. On the one hand the American people don’t like what happened at the prison (and some argue that we should have blown the prison up as soon as we went in; maybe, but you should have argued it at the time), on the other hand they understand that what we are doing in that part of the world is too important to be affected by an isolated incident. After all, we don’t humiliate (or torture) as a matter of policy. But what about the opinion of the Iraqis, or Muslims more generally? Well, that’s interesting, and I have said from the beginning that this incident(s) could have broad unfavorable strategic consequences, and most certainly will be useful as propaganda for our enemies. And yet, I saw an Iraqi being interviewed (he claimed to be in one of the infamous photographs) and he said this: I am so deeply humiliated by how I was treated that I cannot continue to live in Iraq, so I will have to go to America. I have nothing else to say for now save this: Let the best of us have conviction, hold the center, do not let mere anarchy loose upon the world, and things will not fall apart. A great speech from the President within the next few days would be helpful toward this purpose.


I have been insanely busy, so I hope you will understand why I have not been around. Board meetings, papers to read, graduation Saturday morning, etc. It goes on and on. So, some amusement in the midst of all this. Click here to read what "Boodle" might mean (the nickname of our daughter Becky; she is leaving tomorrow morning for South Dakota for three months!). The site you see this on is fun and useful. Look up other interesting words or phrases, for example cop, or upsidaisy. Have fun. Learn your tongue.

Robert Alt on Bill Bennett’s Radio Show

Robert Alt will be Bill Bennett’s Morning in America radio show on Monday at 6:30 am. In case you can’t find it on the radio dial, it will be archived on his website later in the day.

Back at Bernstein

After traveling to Anaconda, I returned to find the internet working reasonably well here at Bernstein. If this keeps up, I should be able to offer more frequent reports.

Abu Ghraib

Because the news of the prisoner abuse came while I was embedded, I have had very few details. I and the soldiers at Bernstein only knew that pictures had come out. Having now seen a few reports, all I can say is that there is no excuse, and that the people who committed these acts should be severely punished. Those who were in their immediate command should be scrutinized, and punished according to their negligence or participation. But the fact that Harkin and Kennedy are calling for Rumsfeld’s dismissal is rank partisanship, and I think everyone can see it as posturing. As best as I can tell from the ground over here, the military took immediate action as soon as they were notified of the abuse--suspending those who were accused, and initiating an investigation. This should have never happened, but the military appears to have taken it seriously, and to have responded swiftly.

Life at FOB Bernstein

Life at FOB Bernstein near Tikrit is, well, rustic. There are no MWR facilities with gyms or televisions like at some other bases. And while they do have internet and phones, the base has had substantial problems with the system crashing. (They are currently in the process of upgrading the system.) Forget about indoor plumbing. They do not even have chemical latrines, but rather use sunken PVC pipes for urinals (this is a Cavalry and Infantry forward base--there are no women), and have wood outhouses with toilet seats over metal buckets for, shall we say, other tasks. The mail was delayed for a couple of weeks this last time, and they are still waiting for some equipment and personal effects that was sent over in large seaborne containers when they left the States. When the mail finally did arrive this last week, the soldiers described it as being like Christmas. Packages and letters from loved ones, friends, and neighbors filled the cots. In addition to letters from people they know, the DOD distributes mail addressed to "Any Soldier" among the troops. It was good to see from the letters how communities were coming together. For example, a Lieutenant from North Carolina got a package from one of his neighbors, who explained how the other neighbors on the block were helping the soldier’s wife by mowing the lawn, and doing repairs around the house. The mail service and the internet service are supposed to be improving soon, and this will be good for the soldiers. While they understand that they have it much better in terms of communication than their brethren who fought in previous wars, it is nonetheless difficult to be out of touch with their families for extended periods of time.

FOB Anaconda

I am currently writing to you from FOB Anaconda/Ballad Airbase in the Sunni Triangle. One of the main reasons I have traveled here is to get access to the internet, which has been down for some time at the base near Tuz. As a result of getting high-speed access, you can now see a number of new pictures from my trips to villages around Tuz.

Attacking Rumsfeld

Should we surprised that Rumsfeld is being attacked by all his political enemies? No. This isn’t rocket science. They attack all the time, and the prison guard fiasco is a perfect opportunity. Keep at it, stay with, something eventually will stick; that’s their mode. And James Lileks points out something very important:

"The minute I heard Biden refer to Rumsfeld with the magic words - “what did he know, and when did he know it?” - I knew that the Iraqi POW story had jumped the shark. Or rather jumped a pyramid of blindfolded, homoerotic sharks. It’s not the question, it’s the words: use of the Vietnam and Watergate era terms like an incarnation that will topple the current administration. I almost expect someone to ask whether there is a cancer on the presidency, a chancre, or a weeping mole. Stop it! STOP LIVING IN THE PAST!

What really bastes my brisket (did I just write that? I need a beer.) is the constant desire to return us to the nadir of the post-war era. They want us to think: quagmire. They want us to think: Nixonian scandal. How inspirational. How Churchillian. I have nothing to offer the American people but blood, sweat and Billy Beer...

That Biden would float the idea of axing Rumsfeld in the middle of this confliict over this tells you how seriously he takes the war. He knows what he says won’t bring victory next year. But it will get him on TV tonight, and perhaps in the Times tomorrow." I don’t have anything to add to that. Lileks nails it. But, it won’t work.

Islam in America

The New York Times runs a distressing op-ed by a Muslim anguished at the takeover of his local mosque in Morgantown, West Virginia by people promoting radical Islam. The stakes in the struggle for the Muslim soul in America are incredibly high: as the piece concludes, "if tolerant and inclusive Islam can’t express itself in small corners like Morgantown, where on earth can the real beauty of Islam flourish?"

Daisy Chain IED

In a previous entry I mentioned that Echo Troop of the 196th Cavalry had discovered a daisy-chain IED, which included 13 bombs strung together. Here and here are videos of two of the larger bombs (one of which was 500 pounds) being detonated by the Army’s Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) unit. And here are some photos provided to me by the unit that should give you an idea how big the explosions really were.

Just Read This.

It’s here. My words can’t do it justice. Read it, and just try not to weep.

Thanks to James Lileks for pointing it out.

CNN’s unbalanced coverage

An interesting comparison of CNN’s coverage (and coverage, and coverage) of the recently revealed prisoner abuse by a few Army guys at Abu Ghraib and their lack of mention of Saddam’s torture/murder/mayhem chambers. Click here.


Shiite leaders seem tired of al Sadr’s thuggery and want him out of Najaf. Also see here. President Bush has announced that the Iraqi will deal with al Sadr.

Hamas and the facts on the ground

This short article from the Jerusalem Post talks about a possible Israeli plan to build additional parts of the security fence in reaction to the killing last week of an Israeli mother and her young daughters by terrorists. Rarely mentioned amidst the recent talk about this terrible killing (and the rejection of Sharon’s disengagement plan by Likud party members) is one massive fact: terrorist groups (especially Hamas) have carried out only one or two successful attacks inside Israel in quite awhile.

Israeli security forces and the fence have disrupted a lot of attacks partially underway, but the fact is that fewer attacks have been conceived in the first place because Israel has been successful in eliminating so many terrorist operatives in the West Bank and Gaza, including Hamas leaders like Rantisi and Yassin (watch out for similar action in Lebanon and Syria against Hezbollah, which has become an even bigger source for terrorist money and support). Simply put: Anger and threats of revenge on "the street" do not determine how many terrorist attacks there will be: they have to be planned, financed, and carried out by operational leaders with hard-to-acquire (and replace) contacts, skills, and knowledge. And those people can be eliminated.

Kerry’s fitness to command

Here is the Boston Globe story on yesterday’s press conference by retired Navy guys talking about Kerry. It seemes to be reported on widely last night. And this is John O’Neill’s piece on Kerry from yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. I don’t think this is a small thing, and it will not do for Kerry’s campaign to say that it is a GOP trick. This cannot help but hurt him since Kerry was the one who wanted to make a big deal about his service in Vietnam. Well, it is a big a deal, but not exatcly the way he had hoped.

Butterfly effect

James Woolsey has an interesting op-ed in the Los Angeles Times on the "buuterfly effect" and interdependent systems. Quick read.

Hunting bin Laden

U.S. News & World Report’s cover story is worth reading. It is called "Hunting bin Laden: Where the World’s Most Wanted Man is Hiding and Why He’s so Hard to Get." Good read. It explains both how hard this work is, and how we seem to be doing it right; although there is no guarantee of success. Note the so called "nuanced approach to counterinsurgency" operations. This is both right and necessary. This Lt. Gen David Barno seems to be a good guy. There are two more related stories on Afghanistan in the same issue, go here and here. Good portrayals of special forces; also note the importance of Pakistan in all this.   

Gen. Taguba report

NBC has put out the full text of invetigation conducted by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba on the abuse of the Iraqi prisoners. I have only read into it; it’s pretty bad.

No Left Turns Mug Drawing Winners for April

Congratulations to this month’s winners of a No Left Turns mug! The winners are as follows:

Carly Hoke

Michael Donatini

Paul Keller

Walter Wallace

Roger Humbert

Thanks to all who entered. An email has been sent to the winners. If you are listed as a winner and did not receive an email, contact Ben Kunkel. If you didn’t win this month, enter May’s drawing.

Kerry note

L.A. Times runs a boring story about Kerry and the Catholic vote. You have to look a bit to find the nuggets. The short of it is that 80% of Catholics voted for Kennedy, and 75% supported Johnson, the so-called Catholic vote is no longer that unified. Also, circa 30% of the Catholic vote is Hispanic. And, two-thirds of the 17 critical battleground states, more people identify themselves as Catholic than any other faith. Pennsylvania has a larger Catholic population than any of the other 16 hotly contested states. And Bush is ahead in Pennsylvania. Also, I think Rove once calculated that if Bush got only three or four percent more of the Hispanic vote, there wouldn’t be a way a Demo could win. Kerry will have to struggle for the Catholic vote.

Fallujah & Najaf

The Belmont Club continues to produce good stuff. It has a few good pages on what may be going on in Fallujah, with a footnote on Najaf. The short of it is this:

The enemy is probably still in the city
the enemy may consist, in part, of Syrian fighters;
the USMC is probably still bottling them up otherwise how to account for the enemy containment, and is therefore present in the city, contrary to press reports;
the USMC is attempting to drive a wedge, as per General Conway, between the hard core and the peripheral enemy elements. Thoughtful, read it all.   

Abu Ghraib

Charles Krauthammer on FOX News about the pictures from Abu Ghraib prison: "I think there has been a huge overreaction. Obviously it is a terrible thing, it shouldn’t have happened and the people who did it are going to be punished. Let’s put it in context, nobody was killed, nobody was maimed.... This has been the most humanitarian occupation in history. The fact is the Arabs are outraged over this. Where was the outrage when the four Americans in Fallujah were murdered and burned and desecrated? Where is the outrage when women and children are used as human shields? Where was the outage for 30 years when Saddam Hussein routinely tortured and maimed and humiliated. When I here all this Arab outrage I see it as highly selective, highly anti-American and highly hypocritical. I think our response ought to be we’re sorry, it shouldn’t have happened, we’re going to punish who did it, and then carry on." (via Realclearpolitics.)

Chaos in Iraq?

I have spent more time than I should have watching TV news over the last few days and it is a constant and universal fact that a bitter, callous and gloomy view pervades all the news about Iraq. It is irritating, to say the least. They lead off with the body count, and give the viewer the impression that the talking heads have a vested interest in Iraq failing. Interview a politician who was always against the war from the start, interview a grieving mother who lost her son and wonders why, show the same truck burning that you have seen a hundred times, and so on. I used to not rave about media inbalance because, what the heck, it was just an extension of politics. But this is different. This is not imbalance, this is recreational pessimism about a war that must be won, and not only for Iraq’s sake. There is a conscious attempt to corrode public opinion about the war in Iraq; this explains why Ted Koppel only showed the names and faces of those who died in Iraq, but not those who died in Afghanistan and elsewhere. These guys remind me of the Copperheads during the Civil War.

So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by this pessimistic George Will column. After all, he claims that pessimism is realism is conservatism. Not quite, Mr. Will. But deep philosophical discussions aside for now, he is wrong to assert that we should not be conserned with what ought to be but only with what is: Too simple, too clever a formulation. Besides, Will is now neocon bashing. If he wants to sign on to the Kerry campaign, that’s fine, but he ought to say so. There are plenty of others out there who are losing their optimism and their nerve about Iraq. They are wrong. Let courage mount with the occasion. And let the Iraqis (with our help) work all this through, but for God’s sake this is not the time to doubt our purposes. This piece by David Ignatius about the good work being done in Nasiriyah is very good. The place was falling into a chaos a month ago, but the Iraqis--frightened by the possibility of falling over the precipice--withdrew from chaos. Very good progress is being made. Ignatius is hopeful, as am I.

Keep in mind that all the chatter and the criticism during a war is not new; it is always thus in a Republic. Everybody is not only an armchair general, but a platoon leader on the ground in real time trying to make decisions; and everyone has an outlet for his views. Pretty messy, all this. Yet it may be a good idea to remind us that it has--more or less--always been so. How was the war going against Japan and Germany in the year after Pearl Harbor? Was the president criticized? John Moser looks at the year 1942, and how hard things were. Good article.   

Victor Davis Hanson on the Ugly Americans of Abu Ghraib

In "Abu Ghraib," Victor Davis Hanson gives an eminently sensible, informed, and worldly-wise assessment of how we should understand the recent ugliness that took place at Saddam’s old Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. To give the sense of his May 3rd editorial, I include just two paragraphs--the last sentence of which brings to mind at once Shakespeare and Churchill:

Right now we see only revolting pictures that properly shock our sensibilities. But because we do not know the circumstances of the interrogations, the conditions of confinement, or the nature of the acts that warranted imprisonment, we are also ignorant to what degree, if any, these men were responsible for horrendous acts--or if their clumsy interrogators were trying to shame and humiliate them to extract information to save other lives.

We who are appalled in our offices and newsrooms are not those who have had our faces blown off while delivering food in Humvees or are incinerated in SUVs full of medical supplies--with the full understanding that there will be plenty of Iraqis to materialize to hack away at what is left of our charred corpses. War is hell, and those who do not endure it are not entirely aware of the demons that are unleashed, and thus should hold their moral outrage until the full account of the incident is investigated and adjudicated.

Peggy Noonan on Raisin in the Sun

Peggy Noonan writes a spendid little piece in Opinion Journal about the "new" Broadway play, "Raisin in the Sun," written by Lorraine Hansberry and first performed on Broadway in 1959. It showcased a virtuoso performance by Sidney Poitier, whose movie version is available on DVD. Don’t rent it, buy it.

Incredibly, Noonan thinks the lame performance by rapper Sean Combs (in the lead role!) does not hurt the play, buttressed as he is by the acting of Phylicia Rashad and Audra McDonald. Noonan observes that his celebrity is drawing folks to the play who would not otherwise take one in. Which leads to another observation of Noonan’s that should startle us all. She rightly notes that "a terrible cultural moment" took place during the play’s performance when the audience she was in responded with cheers when a character decides to put a $5 down payment towards an abortion. "They didn’t understand it was tragic," Noonan observes. Indeed.

FOB Bernstein

We then arrived at FOB Bernstein on the outskirts of Tuz, which will be my home for a bit. There I met up with the 196th Cavalry Unit, which includes elements from northern Ohio, and from North Carolina. Among the members of the unit is Lt. Barry Naum, who I have known since college. Lt. Naum is a member of the Ohio National Guard. He was in the middle of his last semester at Ohio State School of Law when his unit got called up to go to Iraq. Within days of being called up, he found out that his wife Olivia was pregnant with their first child, who was born just last month. Because of problems with Internet access, it was a few weeks before he could see a picture of his new son. Lt. Naum’s story is a testament to the sacrifice of the men serving over here: men who left their families at important times, and left their careers at important times, to serve their country at a critical time.

Tuz is where tradition says that Abraham was born, and there is a large mosque commemorating the birthplace. It is a relatively diverse city, including within its boundaries Kurds, Sunnis, and Turkoman. Many of the surrounding villages are extremely poor. The dominant structures are mud huts—which nonetheless sport satellite dishes. FOB Bernstein itself is a former Iraqi airbase. The men live in the bunkers, and eat their chow at one of the hangers. (Having now seen it at two FOBs, I can tell you that the brown egg concoction appears to be a staple at the Forward Operating Bases.)

In the first two days here, I have gone out on missions with Cpt. Bumgardner and Lt. Naum to view the local villages and to meet with their Muqtars, which essentially are village mayors. The children in the villages are instantly drawn to the soldiers and swarm around them. The response is particularly emphatic in the Kurdish villages such as Changalawa, the first village I visited, where the soldiers handed out toothpaste and toothbrushes to the kids, and gave them a hygiene lesson on brushing. The children ask for common items from the soldiers such as water bottles (which many of the children already have), just to have something which they can show off as given to them by an American soldier.

The next village we visited was the Arab village of Davaj. Despite being another small, poor village with mud huts, it was one of Saddam’s favorites--one which he is known to have visited regularly. Prior to the 196th coming into the region, one of the prior units drew fire from a tent in Divac. They returned fire, but after the fact it appears that the shooter must have been firing from some place near but not in the tent. As a result, a boy of about nine became his immediate family’s sole survivor. The captain over the unit took it very hard, and began supporting the boy (who came under the charge of the Muqtar) out of his own pocket. When Cpt. Bumgardner inherited the region, he requested that his wife send a couple of boxes of clothes for the boy, who happened to be the about the same age as the Iraqi child. At each of the towns, we met with the Muqtars to assess the needs of the community, and examined facilities such as wells and roads.

Today I traveled to three cities in the area with Lt. Naum. We visited the schools, and chatted with the Muqtars about conditions in the villages. We started in Albu Najm, a village consisting of a population of 700 that is about 50 percent Arab and about 50 percent Kurdish. One man explained to me that under Saddam, the soldiers would come in, hit people, and take their money. As a farmer, he was forced to pay a selectively applied tax of 500,000 dinars per year to Saddam. He was enthusiastic about the conditions now: “Everybody has freedom. I can go wherever I want.”

In Mansur Agur, another Kurdish village of around 2,100 people, we spent a considerable amount of time with the Muqtar. He explained that under Saddam, people in his village who fell out of favor were simply moved to northern regions. One of his key complaints to the Coalition had been about the power blackouts. When I asked him if power access was better under Saddam, he explained that even if there was “No water. No power. Still better life now that Saddam gone.” He then went on to explain that there was in fact more power available now as well.

We were then invited to a local political party leader’s home for lunch. There were 15 people in our group, and on short notice he prepared a feast for 50. The food was quite good and plentiful, including chicken, schwarma bread, two kinds of rice, squash in something like a tomato soup, chicken broth, and topped off with chai tea. Again, the children were drawn to the soldiers, and swarmed around the vehicles so much so that it was difficult to actually maneuver the Humvees to leave the village.

Internet access has been difficult here—and in fact has been down the last three times that I have tried to get online. I hope to be able to get online more often in the next few days, and I will try to post some of the pictures (and maybe even video) from my recent travels soon.

FOB Caldwell

I spent Thursday with the Engineers from the 216th at FOB Speicher. These are men and women who are building force security measures such as berms, repairing bridges, and in general doing a much of the unsung work to keep the bases up and running. Because these men and women are reservists, many of them have very profitable businesses back in Ohio as contractors. Thus their sacrifice is not only being away from their family, but depriving their family of the higher incomes to which they are accustomed. I chatted with a number of the soldiers, and will pass along some of their stories in a future article.

I was told the guys build things in any spare moments they have, and I found this to be true. When I came back to the quarters that I was sharing with a couple of soldiers, I found Sfc. Setty, a reservist who I would guess to be in his mid-fifties, building something. When I inquired what it was, he told me that he thought I might need a place to work that night, so he was building a table for me to use. And sure enough, by the next time I came back to the room, he had finished the table, complete with adjustable legs.

On Friday, the 216th took me on a convoy to Forward Operating Base (FOB) Caldwell—which is 30 kilometers from the Iranian border. The convoy would be a large one, including 11 vehicles, at least two of which were hauling heaving equipment. Before heading out on the six hour convoy, we received a briefing from the unit’s S-2 about security issues. He warned that “[t]here’s an abundance of IEDs” on the roads we would be traveling, and told us about an IED daisy-chain found by the 196th Cavalry which was composed of 13 bombs (including a 500 pound bomb) wired together and buried by the side of the road.

Just before heading out, Chaplain Sizemore, an Ashland University Theological Seminary graduate, offered a prayer. A military prayer. A prayer reminiscent of Patton’s weather prayer. He prayed not just for protection, but asked God to confuse and confound our enemies. He implored God to use his battle ax, and to go before the convoy and bring down his destruction on the enemy. After the talk about the IED daisey-chain, this seemed eminently appropriate.

I traveled in the lead vehicle of the convoy—an unarmored Humvee—with Lt. Courtemanche, who was leading the convoy, Spc. Sams, who was driving the Humvee, Spc. Corielle, who was a medic on the only female in the convoy, and Sgt. Caldwell, who was manning the turret. The trip was relatively (and thankfully) uneventful. The terrain was varied, and included a reasonably large lake, hills, and wadis. A number of miles from Caldwell, we began to encounter reinforced trenches and sunken bunkers. These positions are not from recent conflict, but are remnants of the Iran-Iraq war.

Upon arriving at FOB Caldwell, we met up with other members of the 216th, who had been detailed to build up security at the base. The base was built by Saddam as a threat to the Iranians after the first Gulf War. Of potential interest to Schramm, he contracted with Hungarians to build the facility. The Coalition shares the facility with the Kurds, who occupy about half the base. Because of repairs to facilities and the number of soldiers at the base, the members of the 216th were quartered in large tents, each of which housed something like 10-15 men. A large thunderstorm rolled through that night, forcing several of the men to try in vain to avoid Chinese water torture as the water trickled through the tent just where the cots were placed. The chow hall was also in a tent, and brought back memories of M*A*S*H—particularly the brownish egg concoction which did not resemble eggs as they occur in nature.

The next morning, we were on a convoy back to FOB Speicher, with a brief stopover in Tuz to drop me off with the 196 Echo Unit. On the way, we encountered a large sand storm. The sand was as fine as dust and resembled brown fog—limiting visibility to just a few feet in front of the vehicles. We eventually made it through the storm, and came across what appeared to be a family whose vehicle was broken down. They signaled for assistance, but the car was parked directly between two sets of hills on either side of the road. It would be a perfect place for an ambush, and it would be consistent with some of the tactics that insurgents have been using on the open highway. So we traveled on, only to see Shia flags waiving in the next small village. While in the south, Shia flags are waived by moderates and extremists alike, in this region, I was told flag waiving tended to be more the domain of the extremists. The soldiers, while initially regretting the decision not to stop to help the vehicle, felt more secure in their decision upon seeing the flag.

New Kerry ad campaign

John Kerry’s campaign on Monday "rolled out a pair of new television ads as part of a $25 million, 19-state advertising buy that campaign officials say is unprecedented in size and scope for a presidential challenger." The spots will last about three weeks, and will be a wholly positive ad campaign "based upon his record -- something President Bush cannot do," Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill said in a news conference.

Lincoln at Cooper Union

Sam Waterston, the actor, will read Lincoln’s Cooper Union speech (Feb 27, 1860) in its entirety this Wednesday--all 7,715 words of it. He will read it in the same hall from the same (short) podium that Lincoln used. This seems to have come about because of the publication of Harold Holzer’s Lincoln at Cooper Union: The Speech that Made Abraham Lincoln President. A pretty good story, that doesn’t mislead the reader much on the importance of the speech. It is true that Lincoln’s speech was a stunning success--it was restrained, intricate, and scolarly--wherein he made clear to a national (i.e., Eastern, sophisticated) audiance that Steve Douglas’ policy deniying that the Federal government had authority over the expansion of slavery was the radical departure from both the principles and the habit of the Founders. Lincoln said that slavery for the Framers was " an evil not to be extended." In short, he argued that it was the Southerners who were extremists, while the Republicans should avoid "passion and ill temper."

Here is the whole speech, and the last two sentences:

"Let us be diverted by none of those sophistical contrivances wherewith we are so industriously plied and belabored—contrivances such as groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong, vain as the search for a man who should be neither a living man nor a dead man—such as a policy of ’don’t care’ on a question about which all true men do care—such as Union appeals beseeching true Union men to yield to Disunionists, reversing the divine rule, and calling, not the sinners, but the righteous to repentance—such as invocations to Washington, imploring men to unsay what Washington said, and undo what Washington did.

Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. LET US HAVE FAITH THAT RIGHT MAKES MIGHT, AND IN THAT FAITH, LET US, TO THE END, DARE TO DO OUR DUTY AS WE UNDERSTAND IT."

Why optimism, Fallujah and Iraq

Things are getting rough, aren’t they? The elite media has already agreed that our Iraq policy is in shambles, or that we never had one? The fact that we haven’t leveled Fallujah once again--oh! you soft Americans--indicates to the world that we will not take the hard steps necessary to win a battle (and the war). Some say that everything is being done by the seat of our pants, from Bush to Bremer to the Marines, and on down. Everybody is an idiot. No plan, no strategy, bad tactics on the ground. Everyone is hyperventilating, from the Left to the Right. I am not convinced that the sky has fallen (the worst piece of strategic news is the mistreatment of prisoners by a few American soldiers). And, although my temptation is to level Fallujah, I also understand that that may not be prudent, given certain circumstances. Let’s all calm down and watch the developments of the next few weeks. In the meantime, see The Belmont Club, wherein it is explained how optimism is a word for nothing left to lose. Because our preservation is at stake, we will not lose. There really are people out there who think that Americans are made of cotton candy! Really? Come on now. Sit back and watch what happens and wish our troops success. This is a war, and it gets a bit foggy. The fog will lift.

Cuba in the doghouse

Mexico and Peru have both withdrawn their ambassadors from Cuba.

Fukuyama and Huntington

These two interviews are worth noting. Francis Fukuyama is not sure whether or not he’ll vote for Bush, and Sam Huntington will vote for Kerry. (Thanks to NRO)

Kerry unfit to be Commander in Chief?

John O’Neill and other veterans (over twenty) will hold a press conference tomorrow announcing that they are convinced that Kerry is not fit to be President. O’Neill said: "We have 19 of 23 officers who served with [Kerry]. We have every commanding officer he ever had in Vietnam. They all signed a letter that says he is unfit to be commander-in-chief." O’Neill was the guy that debated Kerry on Dick Cavett in 1971 and which C-Span has recently aired. "We are going to be presenting a letter that deals with Kerry’s unfitness to be commander and chief that has been signed by hundreds of swift boat sailors, including most of those who served with Kerry," O’Neill explained.

"The ranks of the people signing [the letter] range from admiral down to seaman, and they run across the entire spectrum of politics, specialties, and political feelings about the Vietnam War," he added.
This could be interesting.

Tillman v. Torture

We have seen several examples since the death of Pat Tillman of people on the Left making graceless statements that he deserved it. So far I have yet to see anyone on the Right making a justification or rationalization for the torture of Iraqi prisoners under our control (nor should there be, of course). To the contrary, every comment I’ve seen from the Right has correctly recognized this as a disaster and condemned the people responsible. I am sure there will be some whack-job out there who will disappoint, but for now the contrast is instructive.

Fallujah Retreat?

The Belmont Club has some clarifying observations on what might be going on in both Fallujah and Najaf. A different picture emerges than the one we get from the news: We are still in control (this is a "military initiative of the American Marines"), the Fallujah brigade is more a political force force than an actual military entity, and the whole thing smells more like a political trick than a defeat. There are many chessboard-like moves, some more visible than others. Consider it. But also consider Mac Owens’ argument for crushing the insurgents in Fallujah, and doing it now, else we will seem to be paper tigers. My high-stomached instinct is with Owens, yet I am not yet persuaded that we will not achieve our ends with our current chess moves. Lear: "Have more than thou showest, speak less than thou knowest."

Bush’s MBA

Thomas Lifson has a few observations on the President and his Harvard MBA and what it may mean. Also note that the author claims that Bush was reputed to be a great poker player. This was written in February, but it still stands. Useful

Forward Operating Site Carlson

The 27th Combat Engineering Battalion is building an airport, the largest in Afghanistan, in a remote place, in just a few days. "So, how do you build an airbase in the middle of nowhere, where there is little more than a goat track to connect it to the outside world?

Again, simple for the US military. You parachute in all the construction equipment from planes.

’This is going to be one of the largest heavy drops since World War II’, said one officer, sounding very excited as we waited for the aircraft to arrive.

There is no doubt though that this was a display of military might that probably no other nation could match."

Michael Ramirez on Pat Tillman

By Michael Ramirez of the L.A. Times.

Problems for Kerry campaign

Adam Nagourney writes in today’s New York Times that the Kerry campaign is not doing well, it is not focused, and disorganized. And, as has been clear and public for a couple of weeks, Democratic insiders are worrying. Donna Brazile: "George Bush has had three of the worst months of his presidency, but they are stuck and they’ve got to move past this moment." I didn’t know this: "In Ohio, the state that strategists for Mr. Kerry and Mr. Bush view as perhaps the most critical battleground, Mr. Kerry has yet to hire a state director or open a campaign office. His operation is relying so far on the work of committees working independent of the Kerry campaign."

An honor killing that failed

This is the story (excerpted from a just published book) of an "honor killing," a young woman burned alive in the West Bank by her brother in law. But, she survived. Brutal story.

John Lewis Gaddis

Max Boot reviews John Lewis Gaddis’ new book, Surprise, Security, and the American Experience. He thinks it is a fine book. "Leaving aside the validity of this or that detail, Gaddis’s major contribution is to treat the Bush Doctrine as a set of ideas worthy of scholarly examination rather than as a subject for ritualistic denunciation. He does not denigrate the President as a cowboy or a neo-Nazi, a simpleton or a dupe. Instead, Gaddis suggests that Bush is honestly grappling with the challenges that we confront today and, if he does not always get it right, he is nevertheless coming up with more interesting and ambitious responses than most of his critics."

An eccentric scientist dies

Dr. Roy Walford, the free-spirited UCLA gerontologist who pioneered the idea of restricting food intake to extend life span and practiced the concept rigorously in an effort to live to 120, has died. He was 79.
This guy was interesting, to say the least. He shaved his head, sported a Salvador Dali mustache and rode a motorcycle, once breaking his leg while attempting a wheelie on Santa Monica Boulevard. So far so good, but it gets better: "In a career that can only be described as colorful, Walford alternated years of intensive laboratory research on mice with yearlong sabbaticals in which he walked across India in a loincloth measuring the rectal temperatures of holy men, traversed the African continent on foot and lived in Biosphere 2, practicing what he called the Signpost Theory of Life."